What comes to mind when you think of the Istanbul of your childhood? Does a lasting memory from back then come to mind?

I grew up in Kadıköy, on the Asian side of Istanbul. My father worked for the National Rail Service so we lived in lodgings over in Haydarpaşa. I vividly recall the train bridge at Haydarpaşa and Kadıköy high street. My parents would treat my brother and I to the cinema at the weekends. I cannot say why, but I preferred to see movies at Reks (now REXX) and Kadıköy Cinema. It became a family ritual to have Iskender kebab at Çömçe and then a pyramid cake at Baylan Patisserie afterwards.

Pretend travelling back in time to the Istanbul of your youth and imagine the Istanbul Biennial from that perspective. Say, it was 1977. Where would the Biennial be held, what would be the main theme, which artists would be invited?

Maybe not the theme but the title would most likely be “Dialectic Materialism and Art”. The Biennial would be hosted in Kadıköy. Namely, the former Süreyya Cinema, the school grounds of St. Joseph and my school (Kadıköy Maarif), the garden of Moda’s Sarıca Mansion and the historic buildings of Yeldeğirmeni neighbourhood.

Where do you go in Istanbul if you feel like relaxing, maybe writing a few lines, having that traditional meal, stare at the sea and birds or just disappear for a while to contemplate?

Undoubtedly Yeniköy. It is such a special place for me. I don’t live there but I adore it.

Where do you live in Istanbul? What do you enjoy about it? Which of Istanbul’s old neighbourhoods appeal to you the most?

I live in Nişantaşı. Many of my close friends live nearby. I cherish the presence of Hünkâr, Kruvasan, Tatbak and Delicatessen simply because I love their food. As for Istanbul’s old neighbourhoods, Samatya is my most favourite.

Recently, I was at Kuzguncuk with intensions of visiting the exhibition at the Abdülmecit Mansion, the venue for one of the parallel events organised by the 16th Istanbul Biennial “Seventh Continent”. Just before going in, I stumbled upon a small antiques shop around the corner. I admit being taken by surprise when I saw a wizard form designed by the slightly snotty proprietor staring at me from the mezzanine. My heart was pounding. There are so many people, places, artforms and crafts waiting to be discovered all across Istanbul. It would be amazing to hear some pointers from you.

I have no doubt that readers would have many discoveries as well. I am still one of those people who cannot give up on Horhor. At the antiques market on Sunday I invariably visit Orhan Kundullu’s antiques, Ziya Sahaf’s book, Aret’s vinyl and poster stalls. If you have the time, travel to Durusu Village to get a loaf of bread from the bakery – there is only one and you will know what I am talking about when you see it. Stroll through the second-hand bookstores in Fatih and then head downhill from Çarşamba, pick up some boza (a fermented malt beverage made of maize and wheat) from the famous Vefa Boza Shop and peek into the Sevda Soda Parlour just across the road.

Would you let us in on a professional secret? What does it feel like to be able to do a job you love and have a role in promoting Turkey in arguably one of the most influential platforms available?

Team work, the collective spirit, putting your head on the pillow each night and being able to say to yourself “I have done something positive for the world, the country and this wonderful city” and still feel excitement going back to the office the following morning. I cannot say it is a secret, but this job demands being a good listener as well as being a good communicator.

Lastly, I would like to ask you to imagine walking around the Istanbul Biennial twenty years down the line. What do you see, who is the audience, what kind of artwork is on display? Does this please you?

I guess the biennial would be more embracing of the city. Videos would be limited to 90 seconds and masses of people would be visiting the exhibitions. I cannot imagine what I would be seeing but I am pretty sure that the Prince’s Islands would still be a venue with the addition of a wave-breaker and many more passenger boats.